Friday, January 11, 2019

The Government Shutdown – Whose Fault is It, Anyway?

Venezuelan caravan from October of 2016  - They're coming to America (WSJ)
Although this subject is a bit off the beaten path of what this blog is all about, I thought I would express my thoughts about the border crisis and the current government shutdown.

One of the President’s signature issues, perhaps even the very first one he spoke about during the campaign was illegal immigration. The way he expressed that issue set the tone for his entire Presidency.

In what has to be at best an exaggeration if not a bold faced lie he took a serious problem and distorted it way out of proportion to its realities. Instead of recognizing the actual problem of immigrants seeking a better life by breaking the law and sneaking into this country via open southern borders, he labeled them all the worst kind of criminals.

It sounded almost racist. As if he was disparaging all Mexicans that way. Certainly the vast majority of them entering our country illegally. Although he vehemently denied it, it’s hard to give the President a pass on this because his rhetoric at the time sure sounded like it.

Be that as it may, illegal immigration is a problem. There are basically 2 reasons that immigrants want in. Either they are fleeing persecution – or they simply want a better life that working even menial jobs at minimal pay will give them.

Those fleeing persecution should be given asylum. If their claims are found to be legitimate there is no way that a humane country like America – the  Medina Shel Chesed - should send them back. That is the current policy. The devil – as always - is in the details. It takes time and personnel to vet all those claims. Not all those claiming persecution are telling the truth. Or if they are their claims of persecution do not all measure up to our definition of it.

There are those however that come here for economic reasons. That is a horse of another color. That said the jobs they take here seeking better lives for themselves are the ones that American workers choose to forego. It is hard to find Americans that will do the jobs that illegals are so eager to accept. (Which should tell you something about America’s greatness compared to the countries these immigrants come from. Even at those low wages they do much better here than they did back home. But I digress.) What this adds to the mix,  however, is that those illegals provide a needed benefit for employers that can’t fill those jobs any other way. It’s kind of a win/win in that sense. 

But there is a downside. Without going into too much detail when foreign immigrants are willing to work for near starvation wages and consider it a plus – it makes it unlikely that Americans would compete fort those jobs. Americans are used to a much higher standard of living. It would be impossible for them to live anything near a middle class lifestyle at those wages. Were they to be paid a higher wage for those jobs - more Americans might take them. But that has a downside too. It would raise the cost of the consumer goods that they produce. Most of which are agricultural and used by the vast majority of Americans. As it stands now, prices can be kept low because of illegal immigration.

Unless we are willing to lower the standard of living for the middle class, we cannot automatically accept all immigrants. That is why we can’t open the borders and let anyone that want to come in – come in. The days where the Statue of Lliberty’s declaration about that are long gone.

That may not be fair to those wishing to immigrate for economic reasons. But if we did that America would suffer. This does not mean we don’t let any immigrants come in for economic reasons. It just means that we need to regulate how many come in per year.

At the end of the day America’s policy would be asylum – yes. But people coming in for economic reasons would need to get in line. What about those jobs that Americans won’t take that illegals will? Perhaps foreign workers should be given work permits and pay taxes on their income. 

This is where the issue stand right now. For the above stated reasons, both Democrats and Republicans agree that there must be better border security. I don’t think either party denies that. The question is how to achieve it.

This question was not asked  yesterday. Nor even during the campaign. Immigration reform as been an issue for many years as more immigrants try to come in. But past attempts by congress at immigration reform has failed because the two sides cannot agree on a bill that would satisfy everyone. There has been a stalemate on the issue. And it was basically put on the back burner until Trump came along. Now it is the on front burner. Big time. That is causing major discomfort for a over 800,000 Federal employees that have either been furloughed or are working without pay. Which will soon have a ripple effect on the entire country if it hasn’t already.

The President and Republicans want a physical border wall – a barrier built along the southern border of the United States to keep illegals out. That plus increased technological surveillance, more security personnel, more agents processing the increased numbers, and better medical facilities with more personnel to deal with the health issues the illegals bring.

Democrats might agree with all of that - minus the wall. They refuse to build a wall under any circumstances – claiming that it is  waste of money and that modern technology can do the job better and cheaper. There are arguments supporting both sides. Democrats are fond of quoting statistics in their favor. Republicans keep showing actual border personnel who say that a wall will certainly help them. They therefore support the President.

The one thing you can say about President Trump - that was not the case with past Presidents is that he keeps his campaign promises whenever he can. No matter what it takes. And since this was his signature issue from the start, he is going to do everything in his power as President to keep his promise here too.

When an opportunity for leverage came along, he took it. The President refused to sign a bill passed by congress to extend funding for the government.That means that certain non vital government employees are not being paid since there is no money to pay them. Some have been furloughed. Others whose service is considered vital are currently working without pay. The President is holding them hostage to his campaign promise.

It would be easy to blame the President  entirely for using government employees as pawns to achieve his own ends.  But in fairness, the President and Republicans do not necessarily see it that way. They see a greater good being served here - using the only leverage they have. Nobody wants to put people out of work. But the immigration problem will never be solved if we just ‘kick the can down the road’. Besides - those working without pay now will get back pay when funding is restored. (Not sure if those that have been furloughed will.)

Even though the President precipitated the government shutdown, Democrats are not blameless here. They are just as stubborn as the President and Republicans. They could end the shutdown right now if they chose to - by simply agreeing to compromise on funding a wall. If they were to agree to that, the President would reopen the government immediately – as he said he would. He has offered to compromise. On that score, the Democrats are completely at fault. And deserve plenty of blame – right along with the President and Republicans.

What about the claim by Democrats that the wall is a waste of money and wouldn’t work anyway? …...that a wall is an outdated way of securing the border? In my view they are wrong about that. Border walls work. Ask Israel.

Sure – there are other ways to protect the border as claimed by Democrats. But nothing beats a physical barrier to prevent illegals from crossing. That should be recognized by everyone with an ounce of honesty about it.

In a budget expressed in the of trillions of dollars - 5.7 billion is a relatively small amount of money. Especially when you consider there are some billionaires worth over 100 billion dollars all by themselves! (Maybe we can get Jeff Bezos to pay for the wall with some of his 147 billion. He will sill be left with over 141 billion! That should be enough to take care of his needs.)

In my view the ball is in the Democrats court. They could end this right now by expressing a willingness to compromise. Just like the President has  That is if they really cared about those federal workers.

Apparently not. The very thing they accuse Trump of – they are just as guilty of. Blaming the President alone is a lie and they know it. Just because somebody else started the fire doesn’t mean you don’t put it out. By refusing to budge and continuing to blame the President they do a disservice to the country. I think the public should be aware of just what kind of people run it: A bunch of self centered amoral losers on both sides of the political aisle that care not a whit about the people they pretend to serve. All they seem to care about is showing who’s boss! Collateral damage be damned!